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90 Seconds of Glory

UPTA.

TCUTA.

SETC.

NETC.

MWTA.

StrawHats.

If reading these letters makes you want to pop a Xanax, you’re not alone. Compressing all of your talent, skill, and artistry into a 90-second sales pitch can be a harrowing challenge, and no, it doesn’t show you off in the best way possible; but that’s not the point of those 90 seconds. The point is to introduce yourself, to say “Here’s me, and here’s what I do. If you’d like to see more, call me back!” So if you’re desperately trying to shove every conceivable facet of your talent into your “package” (that’s shorthand for your 90-second audition package, don’t get it twisted), then you’ve broken the cardinal rule of show business: Always leave ‘em wanting more!

Selecting Material

This topic is an entire blog unto itself; but here are a few bullet points to help steer you in the right direction.

  • Review this comprehensive “overdone” list. It’s very sensible. It’s not completely up-to-date but it sure is a good start.
  • On the other end of the spectrum, avoid songs that are obscure just to find something obscure. They’re probably obscure for a reason. 
  • There are exceptions to both of the above rules.
  • Read this list of “Songs I Never Mind Hearing at Auditions.” (Disclaimer: I’m married to this guy.)
  • What do you do? What’s your “thing”? What are your strengths? Your material SHOULD represent the answers to those questions. 
  • What are your weaknesses? Your material should NOT represent those.
  • We don’t need to hear the money notes. Don’t select material SOLELY for the reason that it has a high Q# at the end. 
  • IF and only IF you are a BELTER (male or female): Please do not yell at us. Everybody loves a fierce belt but nobody wants to be shouted at all day long. Fierce = control & refinement. 
  • IF YOU ARE NOT A FIERCE BELTER THEN DO NOT SING A FIERCE BELTER SONG. 
  • Not everyone needs to be a belter. I am never mad at a sensible warm mix.
  • IF SINGING IS NOT YOUR PRIMARY SKILL THEN DO NOT SING. “But I want to get seen!” You don’t want to get seen being anything less than your best. Do your BEST work for some of the people, not your WORST work for all the people. Or, to put it another way: NPFT
  • If your monologue has lascivious clowns, your mother’s ashes, or a murdered fish, find something else.

Those 90 Seconds
(or 60, if you’re not a singer (see above about not singing))

Listen to me.

Are you listening?

NO SERIOUSLY. LISTEN TO THIS NEXT PART VERY CAREFULLY:

Nobody cares if TIME is called on you. 

Here’s the thing. You have 90 seconds (or 60, if you’re an actor-not-a-singer) to deliver the goods. You will practice your “package” and time yourself 96,000 times before the big day. You will come in WELL under the limit every time. And then on the big day, the time/space continuum expands and somehow you’re just getting to the good part when 

“TIME!”

is called and you stutter, panic, mumble and stumble offstage with your head hung low. But guess what? NOBODY CARES. So if you go over time and you hear the timekeeper hollering 

“TIME!” 

like you’re on Top Chef or something, just stop talking or singing and take a breath in and let it out. Then say your name & number, smile, and strut offstage like you just won the damn Tony. 

Other tips to make the most of your 90 seconds of Glory:

  • Take your time walking onstage.
  • Don’t cheese the audience. It’s not a pageant.
  • Practice saying the word “availability”.
  • Make sure your starting note is clear.
  • Don’t rush the ending. Take a moment to breathe before you say your name & number.
  • Say “availability”. Say it now. 

Dance Callbacks

  • Go to the warmup! Several companies watch warmup, some even leave before the audition starts. 
  • Dress warmly: Hotel ballrooms are always freezing cold.
  • This one is especially for the movers among you: Don’t ever stop moving! Keep practicing until it’s time for you to walk in the audition room. Your body might know it but your mind will freeze under pressure (and vice versa). 

Callbacks

So here’s the weird thing about SETC, UPTA, etc.: Callbacks take place in the company’s hotel room. THIS IS THE ONLY INSTANCE IN WHICH IT IS ACCEPTABLE TO AUDITION IN SOMEONE’S HOTEL ROOM.

  • Bring a refillable water bottle and keep drinking it.
  • Bring a pitch pipe/download a pitch pipe app on your phone, or bring accompaniment tracks for your callbacks. Hotel rooms don’t come with pianos (at least, not the ones that theatre companies can afford!). Sometimes the company will bring a keyboard but mostly you’re going to sing a cappella; so having your own tracks ready to go is always impressive (and more fun).
  • If you get a lot of callbacks, prioritize. You don’t have to go to all of them. Don’t feel bad; it’s ok if you want to give us a pass. Just slip one of those reject slips under the door and let us know. Don’t just not show up.
  • Plan to stay at least an extra half-day, preferably an extra full day, just in case you don’t make it to all your callbacks. Some companies do morning or afternoon callbacks so if you miss them at night you can hit them the next day.
  • Have a repertoire list ready to hand out. If a company rep asks you “What else do you have?” You don’t want to be stumbling. Have a list ready to go and you’ll save everyone lots of time.
  • When singing a cappella, always keep the beat. Don’t skip beats just because you’re not singing. You have to hear the band in your head, because we will. Here’s Intern Noellia to demonstrate:

THE RIGHT WAY

THE WRONG WAY:

One more word about callbacks: It’s hard, but please try not to compare yourself with your friends. You just never know the reason companies respond more to one artist than another in any given season. The fewer callbacks you have, the more you can prepare for them!

These combined auditions can be crazy town; but they’re an adventure. Enjoy the ride and don’t obsess over the outcome. 

See you in Memphis!

Rewriting History

OK so I’ll just come right out and admit that I was Googling myself awhile back (I know, I know… ) and the FIRST hit that came up was this seven-year-old interview that I did for Carol de Giere, who (literally) wrote the book on Stephen Schwartz.  The interview was all about audition advice, from the perspective of a singer/actor.  I was scared to read it and see what I said seven years ago… but actually I still agree with most of what I said in that interview!  It got me thinking, though, about the things that I would say differently now that I’ve been on the other side of the table for about as long as that article has been floating around the internet.  Have a look through it, then come back here and read on to see what I would change if I could go back in time!

Revelations I have had since February 2005:

1. I am not now, nor was I then, the same type as Mary Testa.

2. Music Choice no longer has a showtunes channel.  Now it’s “Stage & Screen”, which makes sense considering that Broadway and Hollywood are apparently the same thing… </snark>

3. “I try to stay away from material that’s pretty well known. I feel like they pay more attention if I’m doing something that they haven’t heard a lot, or that they’ve never heard and they’re like, “Oh, what’s that?”  Yeah… about that… I really don’t have a problem with “overdone” songs, and I have many times been at a table with a Director or MD who gets frustrated because so many people do obscure or trendy songs that the D/MD doesn’t know.  It’s hard for them to hear what they need to hear.  This is especially true for more modern, contemporary songs that lack a central tonality and jump around a lot.  Personally, I would rather hear something familiar.  Songs are like old friends – how lovely to hear from one you like and haven’t heard from in years!  Bottom line:  Don’t stress about “overdone” songs.  Instead, worry about OVERSUNG songs – that is, songs that are just loud and screamy and make your vocal cords want to jump out and slap you in the face (e.g. Astonishing, Life of the Party, Pity the Child).  Don’t blow your wad right out of the starting gate.  Show me what you can do flawlessly 110% of the time, no matter how cold/tired/recovering from Swine Flu/early/allergies/full of excuses you are; NOT how loud you can belt.

4. Remember Tower Records?  How quaint of me… let’s just change that to “the iTunes store/youtube/Spotify”.

5. If you bring in “Defying Gravity”, my eyes will still roll.  BUT I wouldn’t place the same restrictions on current Broadway shows… I’d just try to avoid anything that’s the obsession du jour.

6. The Audition Repertoire Book Table of Contents is still a freaking GENIUS idea.  Do it.

7. SO true about the 16 bars telling a story, the character making a choice.  The best 16 bars have a beginning, middle, and end; and you don’t know how it’s going to end until you get there.

8. The last paragraph still rings absolutely true; however, I would like to add a coda to that:

9. Be courteous, kind, and professional to everyone OUTSIDE the room, as well as inside.  You never know who’s going to be in the position to recommend you someday.  Yesterday’s girl in the yellow trunks is tomorrow’s choreographer.  Yesterday’s girl-in-front-of-you-in-line-who-sang-the-thirteenth-“Vanilla Ice Cream”-of-the-day-and-you-all-rolled-your-eyes-in-the-hallway is tomorrow’s Director.  And yesterday’s monitor is tomorrow’s casting director.  Be nice.

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